“Our Inheritance”: The Family of God
The Apostle Paul shows clearly in the new teaching of “the Mystery” called the Manifesto of Human Rights and Privileges, that all of us “in Christ” are destined to sit on a throne on the right hand of the Father. Each of us is to become a full-fledged member of the divine Family of God. But what is the “Family of God”? To many people, the most confusing doctrine in the entirety of the Holy Scriptures concerns the Family of God headed by a Father who is called “God” and His firstborn Son Jesus Christ who is also called “God.”
Since the 4th century, it has been considered “orthodox” to reckon the Holy Spirit also as a “God” of equal rank with the Father and Christ to complete this one Family of God. But this belief on the surface seems to breach the doctrine of monotheism advocated by Moses and the Prophets. For one thing, the Scripture tells us in no uncertain terms that there is only one God and that His name in Hebrew is YHWH ELOHIM (Isaiah 45:5). But most Christians seem to abandon this plain statement of Isaiah and proceed to inform all people that there are actually three “Gods” (and only three), and these three are so intertwined in purpose and power that they must be acknowledged as a divine unit of inseparable singularity.
With this in mind, it is assumed the monotheistic characteristics of “God” as defined by the Old Testament can be maintained, while the full status of Godhood can also be afforded to Christ and the Holy Spirit. This has become known since the 4th century as the mysterious doctrine of the Trinity — three separate “Gods” working inseparably as a divine unit called a singular, monotheistic “God.” And while this teaching has dominated Christian theology for the past sixteen centuries, it is admitted on all sides that no one is able to adequately explain this concept rationally, clearly or scripturally. This is why the Trinity has been called an unfathomable, inexplicable “divine mystery.”
Recognition of this concept of the “Trinity” is the traditional explanation of the Godhead. But is it proper? Today in most Catholic and Protestant circles one of the defining doctrines to determine if one is a Christian involves acceptance of this 4th and 5th century evaluation that God should be reckoned as a divine unit expressed of three separate personalities with an inseparable singular existence. The simple truth is, as all reasonable people will admit, the doctrine is a complete contradiction of the meaning of words or phrases no matter in what languages they are expressed. It is not possible to reasonably explain the Trinity doctrine so that it makes sense. No wonder theologians and preachers are forced to call the teaching a mystery.
It is so mysterious and inexplicable to human understanding that the dogma should be accounted an utter fabrication manufactured by 4th century church leaders who ought to have known better. It is perpetuated today by theologians who also should know better. It is time to jettison this nonsensical, unexplainable doctrine from our Christian body of beliefs and return to the simple teachings of the Old and New Testaments about the nature of God the Father, Christ His only begotten Son, and the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
The whole matter of how God the Father can be called “God,” and Christ Jesus can equally be called “God,” is clearly shown in the Bible if only people will pay attention to the words in the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. True enough, to the English reader (or anyone not using the original Hebrew and Greek texts) this may be somewhat difficult to understand. But knowing only English is really no handicap these days because there are many lexical aids that easily show the meanings and usages of any scriptural word no matter where it is found in the Bible. Notable among such works is George Wigram’s Englishman’s Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance to the Old Testament along with his Englishman’s Greek Concordance to the New Testament. These two volumes are essential for the study of usages and meanings of every biblical word within its context. It is easy, in most cases, to determine the exact and inspired meaning of a Hebrew or Greek word by the use of Wigram’s concordances. These works are well known and can be purchased or ordered from almost any Christian bookstore.
When these two concordances are placed in one’s hands, any student of the Bible will have the tools he or she needs to discover the meanings of the words denoting “God” found in inspired Scripture. The result is a simple, easy-to-understand way to know who “God the Father” and “God the Son” really are in a comprehensible way. Let us observe what the Holy Scriptures teach about what and who “God” really is. It is easy to see that the “Trinity doctrine” of our present-day theologians is utterly contrary to truth.
The key to understanding the question before us is to recognize what the word “God” means in Scripture. When this is realized by using original Hebrew and Greek texts, the matter becomes so simple a child can recognize it. This is what all theologians and preachers need to reinvestigate because, when they do and if they are willing to let Scriptural teaching prevail in their understanding, there will be no doubt as to the position of God the Father and that of His only begotten Son, Christ Jesus. It will be found that both are “God,” yet they are both separate personalities united together in a singular purpose. One intent of God is to accomplish a unity among all humans into becoming, with God, a plurality of persons separate and distinct from one another, but united in a common oneness to equal the singularity of purpose inherent between the Father and the Son. To realize how this is to be accomplished, we need first to recognize just what the word “God” means.
The chief problem in perceiving a right conception of “God” is the use of the English word “God” (or its German, French, Italian, etc., equivalents) within all its contexts in the scriptural revelation. On the surface it seems absurd that such a matter needs discussion. Most people normally think the whole of Scripture contains clear information about the unique monotheistic spiritual power we call “God.” It does. But remarkably, our western concepts lead us to misapply Scripture resulting in confusion regarding who or what “God” really is.
This misjudgment occurs because most people assume the term “God” always means a singular and exclusive Supreme Being — the Almighty, the One, and true Being who alone represents the singular Creator and Sustainer of all things that exist in the universe. This very concept causes confusion in all sectors of western civilization in recognizing the “God” of the Bible. This is why, as products of western culture, we all need to reevaluate what “God” actually means from the biblical point of view. A thorough study of the matter will produce surprising conclusions that are quite contrary to what most of us were taught from childhood.
Our western definition that has been used over the centuries to describe the Deity is in many cases diametrically opposite in meaning to what the prophets and apostles had in mind when they talked of “God.” Even a superficial concordant study of the scriptural words, easily accomplished with George Wigram’s works, reveal that no author of Scripture ever conceived of the Deity in the manner most westerners imagine “God” to be. The majority of us in the past (and I include myself) have habitually introduced our occidental imaginations about “God” into the meanings of the biblical words. It is no wonder we have been so mixed-up.
The truth is, our English definition of “God” is not an exact Hebrew or Greek equivalent of the Divine Title as revealed in the Holy Scriptures. The western concept of “God” gives the impression that the scriptural writers advocated a system of strict monotheism — the belief that there is only one personality called “God,” and that there can never be any beings other than the Supreme God Himself who can be termed “God.” But when one studies the Scripture, whether the Old or the New Testaments, it will be found that this appraisal is totally at variance with what the prophets and apostles believed and wrote.
Whether the Greek word “theos” is used to describe the Deity or the Hebrew “elohim,” it was fully accepted by the inspired writers that there existed more than one “god.” A simple reference from the apostle Paul should dispel the erroneous belief in a single God. The apostle Paul shows that polytheism (the belief in many “Gods” or “theoi”) was the principal teaching by early Christian authorities and this included the apostles. Paul said:
“There be gods many and lords many.”
1 Corinthians 8:5
Paul recognized there are many “Gods” and many “Lords.” In Psalms we read,
“God [Elohim] stands in the congregation of the Mighty [El]; he [God]judges among the gods [Elohim].”
This is polytheism at work. Paul was not speaking figuratively or frivolously. He was dogmatically telling the truth that all believers in the Old Testament understood to be correct. The Book of Psalms frequently acknowledged polytheism as a fact that was commonly understood in the Old Testament period. Of course, this polytheism did not rank the other gods to be like the single Godhead of which YHVH was the head.
“Among the gods there is none like unto you, O Lord [YHVH].”
The biblical writers knew that YHVH existed “among the gods” and was the greatest and most powerful of them. But while “there be gods many,” YHVH was still “above all gods.”
“For I know that the Lord [YHVH] is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.”
Psalm 135:5, emphasis mine
“You are exalted far above all gods.”
Psalm 97:9, emphasis mine
Yes, YHVH was the greatest of the Gods, but David and Paul knew that other “gods” existed. And while the apostles fully recognized there was only one “theos” called “the Father” (because there was only one Father supreme over all), this in no way ruled out the fact that the term “theos” (God) was used in its plural form to denote the existence of a plurality of “gods.” Paul clearly accepted this fact that there were many “gods” and “lords” who were not “God the Father” or “Jesus Christ.”
This was certainly the belief of the Old Testament prophets. It was understood that the Gentiles manufactured idols to represent the various deities they worshipped. The images, however, only depicted in outward physical form the spiritual powers in heaven or elsewhere who were their actual “gods.” Most sophisticated heathen societies in the ancient world recognized that the images of their gods were not themselves the gods they adored; though in some cases the idols themselves were understood as having mystical and supernatural powers given to them by their deities. Moses warned of this Gentile practice of making idols of these gods. He referred to,
“The graven images of their gods [a form of Elohim, plural].”
Moses realized that the various nations had deities which in fact existed and were not simply a figment of people’s imagination (cf. Exodus 12:12 and all of Psalm 82). Though the first commandment forbade worship of the Gentile Gods and no images of spiritual beings were authorized in Scripture (outside the inner Tabernacle), it was nonetheless understood by the prophets as well as Moses, that such deities existed. There have always been many Gods and Lords.
“For all people[s] will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the Lord [YHVH] our God [Elohim].”
The fact is, the true God [Elohim, plural for a group of divine beings] is shown in Scripture as existing among a plurality of other Gods [Elohim]. The supreme God is:
“God of all Gods and Lord of all Lords.” 1
In heaven, God is often described as the “Lord of hosts [the Lord among many celestial beings].” Many of these spirit beings are “angels,” but not all. Some are “Sons of God.”
How could the plurality of Gods be a fact since we westerners have had such a firm conviction that the Bible teaches monotheism, not polytheism? The simple answer is, we westerners are wrong in our reasoning. Many scriptures testify to the existence and reality of these other “gods” [Elohim] of the heathen, though they are not “gods” in the same category as the one true God [Elohim] of Israel whose name is YHVH. The Bible shows that only the God of the Israelites represented the ultimate and supreme Power. 2
In spite of the singularity of the one Supreme God (as far as the Godhead is concerned), the Scriptures recognize a vast assortment of spirit beings properly designated as “gods” (elohim or theoi). Non-recognition of this fact has caused an enormous amount of confusion among biblical scholars in their quest to understand the nature of the Godhead. This misconception must be rectified if the scriptural revelation is to be correctly read and understood. The Holy Scriptures instruct us that the heathen in many circumstances worshipped actual spirit personalities (elohim) who were in authority over them (with characteristics either good or bad). And in the Scriptures those spirit beings were legitimately and accurately called “gods” (elohim).
The people of Israel were cautioned by the prophets not to allow these subsidiary “gods” to be intermediaries in their worship of the only true God who was YHVH. This means that it is quite proper to say that there is one Supreme God in the Holy Scriptures who exists among a plurality of spirit beings who are also called “gods” (Elohim). YHVH, however, is the highest power. As an example, recall again,
“Among the gods there is none like unto you, O Lord [YHVH].”
Who could these other “Gods” be? The answer is clear in Scripture if one pays close attention to what the prophets and apostles said.
In the Scripture, there are two kinds of spirit beings designated Elohim [“Gods”]. One type of Elohim is collectively called “Sons of God” (who are a part of God’s Family and are very close to the Supreme God). This special group are His “children” who help to complete the inner family of divine beings. They are of the Household of the Father in heaven. There is yet another type of spirit beings called Elohim who are of lesser authority and rank. These are designated as being angelic messengers. These angels (no matter what their hierarchical position, or how high their prestige) are NOT classified as “Sons of God.” These two types of spirit beings, Sons of God and angels, are both called “Elohim,” but must be distinguished from one another if one hopes to understand the teachings of the Scriptures.
There is a sublime principle of the Scriptures that must never be thwarted or deviated from by us humans. The apostle Paul taught plainly in the Book of Hebrews that no angel could ever be reckoned a “Son of God” or even be like one of the “Sons of God” (in the plural, Hebrews 1:4–14). 3 Paul stated:
“For unto which of the angels said he [God] at any time, ‘You are my son, this day have I begotten thee?’ And again, ‘I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son.’ And again, when he [God] brings in the firstbegotten [Christ] into the world, he says, ‘And let all the angels of God worship him’.”
Hebrews 1:5–6, emphasis mine
Though angels can be called by the name Elohim if they represent the Godhead as divine mediators or as being God’s agents, none of the angels can be called “Sons of God (Elohim)” like Christ and human beings are called. The central distinction is in the use of the word “Son.”
Indeed, though YHVH has a personal angel called “the Angel of YHVH,” 4 that angel, though prestigious, is NOT YHVH Himself. He is simply the agent or representative of YHVH. And according to Paul, since such a spirit being is an angel, he therefore cannot be reckoned as a “Son of God.” This contrast and distinction must be recognized in a dogmatic fashion if one is to understand just who are the “Sons of God” of the Bible, that is, the “Sons of Elohim” or “Elim” (plural) or the “Sons of El (singular).” Even the dissimilarity in the grammatical cognate forms of “Elohim” must be recognized to comprehend what functions those Family members of God possess within the Godhead. This role is not difficult to understand. We have a clear reference to the “Sons of God” as being part of the divine assembly in heaven who have such high rank that they can counsel with YHVH. In Psalm 29:1 they are called “Sons of Elim” (the Hebrew = “Sons of Gods” or “Mighty Ones”). Look at Psalm 89:
“The heavens shall praise your wonders. O Lord [YHVH]: your faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints [that is, “in the heavenly assembly of the holy ones” (plural)]. For who in the heaven can be compared unto the Lord [YHVH]? who among the Sons of El [the Hebrew is: “among the Sons (plural) of God (singular)”] can be likened unto the Lord [YHVH]?”
We will see just who these “Sons of God” are later, but let us look first at the role of the angelic powers, both good and bad, including Satan the Devil. They were called by the apostle Paul the “thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers” whom Christ subdued through His crucifixion on the Mount of Olives (Colossians 1:16, 2:15). These beings influence their human representatives on earth through whom they work. On the other hand, many angels have responsibilities not directly involving humans — these have control over the multitude of animals, plants, and the inanimate elements (Colossians 1:16). Whatever the case, the apostle Paul made it clear that Christians were released from the authority of these powers, who once held mankind in captivity and slavery. We were freed when Christ led captivity captive (Ephesians 4:8).
Note this. Once the dominion of these angelic powers over God’s people was taken away, Christ then gave to His people (the Ekklesia) — a group of apostles, prophets, etc., to provide His children with teaching and understanding. Although we are no longer subject to these angelic principalities and powers (in God’s eyes), they are still designated as “gods” (Elohim). All of these angelic hosts are inferior to YHVH (and the New Testament confirms their Old Testament status). They are also inferior to Christ and are required to worship Him. That’s right, the other “Gods” were made to worship YHVH (the Father) and Christ.
“Worship him, all you gods [Elohim]”
The author of the Book of Hebrews interprets this verse in Psalms by saying that these particular “gods” were “angels.”
“And let all the angels of God worship him.”
This citation by Paul clearly indicates that angels themselves can accurately be called “gods.” They are God’s agents sent by God to accomplish His divine will on earth and in the heavens.
But are angels the “Sons of God”? Are angels begotten of God and then reckoned as “Sons of God” or “Children of God” like Christ is called the Firstborn Son of God? The apostle Paul answered most emphatically with a resounding “NO.” This difference was so important to Paul that he placed this teaching at the very beginning of the Book of Hebrews and restated his point three times.
“For unto which of the angels said he [God] at any time ‘You are my son,’ this day have I begotten you?
And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?
And again, when he [God] brings in the firstbegotten [Christ] into the world, he says, And let all the angels of God worship him.”
Hebrews 1:5–6,emphasis mine
It is important to realize that in any usage in the Old and New Testaments where the phrase “Son of God” or “Sons of God” is used, the Book of Hebrews teaches with dogmatism that these designations NEVER refer to angels no matter how important or high ranking the angels may be. Though angels can be described by the generic word Elohim, if it stands alone, according to the apostle Paul no angel can EVER be referred to as being a “Son of Elohim” or, thus, the plural “Sons of Elohim.” This prohibition also extends to the use of the phrase “Children of God” in the New Testament and includes the feminine phrase “Daughters of God.” 5
This doctrinal statement by Paul at the beginning of the Book of Hebrews absolutely precludes the “Sons of God” from being angels. Those who were called the “Sons of God” in Genesis 6:2, 4 married the “Daughters of Men” and produced the offspring of the “Giants” (Nephilim), were NOT angels. Jewish interpreters thought the Sons of God were the rebellious angels who revolted against God at the time referred to by 1 Peter 3:18–21; 2 Peter 2:4–5; Jude verses 6 and 7. 6 True enough, angels certainly joined in this rebellion against the wishes of God in the pre-Flood period, but the “Sons of God” and the angelic hosts are quite distinct from one another. 7 These “Sons of God” were another type of beings AND NOT ANGELS. Who are they? The next chapter will explain.
1 The term “Lord” in this verse is translated from “Adonai” and not from YHVH. Note too the totality of the superlative: “of all gods” and “of all Lords.” ELM
2 See Isaiah 44:8; 45:22; 46:9; Jeremiah 2:11, 28; Galatians 4:8, 1 Corinthians 8:5–6 ELM
3 Nowhere in Scripture is Christ called an angel. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 states that “the Lord [Christ] Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel.” This does not mean that Christ is an archangel, but that either an archangel shouts when Christ returns, or Christ shouts with a voice like that of an archangel. ELM
4 Genesis 16:7. There are many other references to this powerful angel. ELM
5 In Daniel 3, King Nebuchadnezzar in verse 25 identifies the 4th being in the fiery furnace as “like the Son of God.” Later in verse 28 Nebuchadnezzar says, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Mechach and Abednego, Who hath sent His angel and delivered His servants.” Nebuchadnezzar had knowledge of what a Son of God looked like, or thought he knew. They looked like angels. This does not, however indicate that Sons of God are angels. Nebuchadnezzar was wrong in identifying a Son of God as an angel. This may explain the later Jewish identification of Sons of God with angels, which Paul corrected in Hebrews 1:5–6. ELM
6 See Book of Enoch 6:1–2, and Philo, On the Giants ¶6, and Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 1.3.1). ELM
7 Both groups appear like human beings in encounters with humans. ELM
Order our Book: Essentials of New Testament Doctrine to read all the chapters.
© 1976-2014 Associates for Scriptural Knowledge - ASK is supported by freewill contributions